One of the patterns I’m trying to overcome as Jesus frees me from my massive control issues is my flight or fight response when I feel hurt or threatened. Most of the time I fight back, or at least obsess over how I WOULD fight back if only I had the balls. During an argument with Bryan I say something mean that I know will hurt him. If the kids are threatening my carefully laid out plan, I bark orders at them until they scatter. Even the puppy experiences my wrath when she acts like a puppy.
Sometimes I don’t fight back at all, but withdraw into myself, overwhelmed. This looks like depression – I wander through my house aimlessly, unable to focus on getting something done; I sleep in late and go to bed early; I quit doing things that re-create me (reading, writing) and daze in front of the television.
But neither fight or flight are redeemed responses – they don’t allow for the new ‘wardrobe’ God picked out for me to wear as described in this passage I meditated on during a recent tough week:
So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it.
I typically plot revenge by way of that perfectly cutting come-back. Surprisingly, and certainly not of my own doing, I find myself responding more and more with grace and compassion. This is a new feeling for me, this calm heart in the midst of spine-twisting stress. I can’t say I walk through these times consistently or perfectly (I still throw out a good tongue-jab on occasion), but I finally feel like I can see that train wreck coming from miles off. I may veer to a new track, or I may plunge full force into the crash, but at least now it’s a choice I make, a choice I own. The train is no longer running on auto-pilot.
I don’t know what meditating looks like for you, but I meditate better when my thoughts can percolate in the background while I busy my hands with a mindless task, like folding laundry or washing dishes. My most vivid revelations come to me while shampooing my hair or running on the treadmill.
For this reason I posted the above passage on a piece of paper above the kitchen sink. I wanted it to dominate my thoughts during those mundane task-y times when bitterness and revenge usually creep into the background spaces of my mind.
As I meditated that week, I focused on each word or phrase and used it to redefine how I viewed my situation. This is some of what came to me:
Compassion, because I am not perfect or without fault. My fellow Man is not the enemy of me, Sin is. And we can empathize with each other’s weaknesses and fight the battle together.
Kindness, because being mean pushes people further away, which is the wrong direction when working toward reconciliation.
Humility, because maybe I’m not as right as I think I am.
Quiet strength, because I am my strongest when I can hear Jesus. I am my weakest when forcing myself to be heard.
Discipline, because I make rash decisions when I’m out of control. I speak before I think, hurting the ones who hear me.
Even-tempered, because trust is built when others know what to expect from me.
Content with second place, because what good is ‘winning’ if I’ve trampled on hearts to get there?
Quick to forgive because unforgiveness turns to bitterness so easily, then controls all of me.
And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. Love is the default. My first response should be love. My first response is not about ME, or what I want, or how I feel, but LOVE for someone else. This is the ultimate example of Jesus – that above all else, he LOVED me, died, rose again, and took away the eternal consequences of my sin.
Never be without it. Never. Not even when I’m PMS’ing, or tired, or feeling justified. NEVER BE WITHOUT LOVE.
I always imagined this to be difficult, this idea of always wearing love. But I find that as I draw my confidence and acceptance from Jesus rather than others or achievements, I love supernaturally and despite myself.